September is National Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month. Unless you’ve had a loved one who has suffered from a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, you may not have thought much about what these are exactly. Here are a few interesting facts:
- A traumatic brain injury is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It disrupts normal brain function.
- Falls are the leading cause of TBIs, followed by being struck by an object and motor vehicle accidents.
- A concussion is a mild form of a TBI.
- Among those who are age 75 and older, TBIs are more common.
- Traumatic brain injury is a major cause of death and disability in the U.S.
- Among all injury deaths, TBIs contribute to approximately 30%.
- For those who survive a TBI, the effects of impaired thinking or memory, movement, sensation, or emotional functioning can last temporarily or the rest of their lives.
- There is research that links moderate TBIs with a higher risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in the future, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
A TBI can have several symptoms, including unconsciousness, confusion and disorientation, an inability to recall events that occurred around the time of the injury, headache, dizziness, blurry vision, and nausea/vomiting.
Doctors will diagnose a TBI with a physical exam and by asking questions about the specific injury, such as how and when it occurred and what kind of object or force caused the injury. The doctor may also order a CT scan or an MRI to get a closer look at the brain.
Emergency surgery is sometimes needed for a TBI. If someone has a severe TBI, they will likely need specialized hospital care and rehabilitation for several months. However, most TBIs (including concussion) are mild. A short hospital stay or at-home monitoring may be needed, followed by outpatient rehab. In fact, a variety of health care professionals may get involved with the care of someone with TBI; these include physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, a psychiatrist, rehabilitation nurse, and others. There also are certain drugs used to lessen effects after a brain injury.
If you have a loved one with a TBI and find it challenging to provide help, there are support groups available to connect with others and to find reliable, trustworthy coping information.
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